Monday, 27 October 2014

DRAFT: Sam Harris vs The Rest of the World

  • The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason (Harris)
  • Letter to a Christian Nation (Harris)
  • The God Delusion (Dawkins)
  • Breaking the Spell (Dennett)
  • God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (Hitchens)
  • God: The Failed Hypothesis (Stenger)
Does the list of books above look familiar to you? 2004 to 2007 was an intoxicating time to be an atheist, especially a budding one. There was plenty written and said before and after these books (and plenty between as well), but this was the moment and these were the books that transcended small intellectual cliques and delivered atheism in digestible, popular formats that helped a broad spectrum of people articulate what had been so hard to say previously. 

That to me was the important part – we all know there were plenty of de-conversions along the way but not enough to sell so many books. The New Atheists gave voice to a silent, pre-existing minority that turned out to be even bigger than the most optimistic had counted on and they sparked a groundswell that terrified religious establishments everywhere. All of sudden the religions of the world weren't quite getting the respect they had gotten used to and you could see they were put out by it and a little scared.

Amongst the new atheists Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens quickly became the best sellers and poster boys of the movement, not least because they are/were all great communicators. They spoke eloquently when invited to comment and landed knock-out punch after knock-out punch in public debates which the changing media landscape transformed from small ivory tower affairs into youtube videos and playlists watched by millions of people. However in spite of or because of their popularity, these three guys also took the lion's share of the criticism of new atheism from within and without. All three writers were accused racism and islamophobia by both the religious groups and individuals they had so neatly speared and by large swathes of the progressive liberal audience.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Corporate Heresy – when people really do expect an inquisition

The other day I was invited to come and do some training for a module in our new student admin system that would be relevant to my area of work. Pretty exciting stuff. My own small piece of university admin had largely been ignored in the new system thus far which had left me to wonder how my processes would be handled in this brave new world.

I have been to these sorts of training sessions before to learn about the enrolment process, credit process etc. so I know the deal well enough; We assemble in the sumptuously fitted out offices dedicated to the new system (no expense spared) and get led through a round of scenarios related to that particular business process – it's a bit like the user acceptance testing we had done earlier but with the bugs ironed out and much better instruction on how things work… or not.